Roll up, roll up! A couple of special events are running in Edinburgh with an expiration date in October! Historical Chinese art at the National Museum of Scotland and the first ever Edinburgh Restaurant Festival (until 23 October) are events are not to be missed.
Edinburgh Restaurant Festival Finally Lands in Scotland
The idea of Restaurant Week is in almost every major city in America and finally Edinburgh has had a light-bulb moment by embracing the food-lovers' concept. Or maybe the Edinburgh restaurant scene has reached a dining apex where it can sustain a slew of restaurants offering deals that would make a foodie dine out multiple times in a week.
We dined at Restaurant Greenaway, owned by British celebrity chef Mark Greenaway. Rated as one of the top 100 restaurants in the U.K. and boasting 3 rosettes, the establishment exceeded my expectations for British cooking.
My plaice and mussels bouillabaisse was delicate and made me want to savor every single morsel to enjoy the complex tastes in the dish. The steak and chips was perfectly cooked. A tongue-and-cheek version of the British pub favorite, the slices of tender sirloin were drizzled with Bearnaise sauce accompanied by a single rectangular hefty block of potato. As a finale, the chocolate dessert, included bonbons, homemade donuts, strips of chocolate and pods of coffee ice cream. It was like a miniature golf course, discovering a treasure of scrumptious delights at every corner. The chocolates were made from IQ Chocolatier in Stirling, Scotland where they use coconut blossom instead of sugar.
The market menu on offer is a weekday lunchtime offer offered year round but Greenaway said the Edinburgh Restaurant Festival was a way to highlight the midday deal as a food event year round.
And in another nod to the culture of fine dining for all, my two children, along with my friend's two children, were welcomed wholeheartedly to the establishment. We had four children with us, ranging in ages from one to nine. The French maître d', along with the friendly waitstaff, treated our children with respect as paying customers instead of scrutinizing for bad table manners like some servers do.
By coincidence, the New York Times Magazine is running a cover story about treating a class of second-graders, roughly averaging around the age of 7, to a $220 meal of gourmet dining in New York City. It turns out Greenaway's maître'd worked at Le Bec Fin, a five-star French restaurant in Philadelphia, where I had taken my eldest daughter to eat as a toddler. It is an American way of life to take your kids to restaurants where they learn to behave and appreciate delicious food from the very start.
Most people in Britain don't subscribe to this method, often taking the easy way out, giving their children plain pasta and chips. If fine restaurants don't welcome children now, they're missing out on a future generation of diners. Who wants the art of gourmet food to die out? Mark Greenaway will certainly make sure it doesn't.
Go to Mark Greenaway 69 Castle Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3LJ+44 (0) 131-226-1155.
Check out Edinburgh Restaurant Festival.
Ming: The Golden Empire at the National Museum of Scotland
"Ming: the Golden Empire" is a special exhibit at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. On loan from the Nanjing Museum in China, the exhibit makes parallels between China and Scotland. For example, did you know the Ming Dynasty started around the same time as the House of Stewarts in Scotland, around 1368? It ultimately came to its demise in 1644 with invading Manchus. During that time, the Confucian system of scholars where people could gain good jobs by taking rigorous tests was established. The exhibit includes a few examples of the distinctive ceramic pottery originating in China. There is also a special section on Chinese calligraphy, illustrating the black beauty of brush painting with scrolls and a short film on the meticulous effort on how it's properly done. There are Three Perfections for calligraphy, as the placards explain: painting, poetry and calligraphy. A flick of the wrist, a light feather touch with a horse-hair tipped writing instrument, can alter the aesthetics of a literary text.
Another uniquely impressive artwork was a pure gold cicada sitting on a rare white piece of jade, delicately carved into a shape of a curved leaf. Jade is usually found with a green tint, almost the shade of fresh bok choy. It's difficult to come across white jade and the craftsmanship of artists to shape an almost lifelike element to the natural world is impressive.
Taking children along to visit museum exhibits to appreciate history, art and the world is of vital importance. Kids are seen regularly at museums all over China and Taiwan because adults understand the importance of passing along a sense of intellectual stimulation. My daughters came along with me to see the exhibit, gaining lessons that will sit with them for the rest of their lives. Children shouldn't be shadowed as if they're criminals about to shoplift a museum artefact.
Simultaneously, the British Museum is running a similar Ming showcase down in London, encompassing works from all over the world, including the British Museum.